Here and there, random thoughts on food, photos, marketing, & customer service

Random thoughts on things

Panera bagels are NOT vegan!

with 14 comments

Update 1/18/12 This was recently posted in the comments. I have yet to verify on my own yet, but this does appear to be legit. -Dana

Thank you for contacting Panera Bread. With the exception of our Jalapeño Cheddar Bagel, we have recently introduced a new natural bagel base in our bagels that does not use l-cysteine or cysteine. Please note that neither was ever an ingredient in our Artisan breads.

Thank you again for contacting us. We appreciate your interest in our menu items.

Customer Comments Coordinator

Orignal Post:

Everyone like bagels, and I sure do. I eat one almost everyday. By way of an awesome business arrangement we end up with a nice cache of Panera gift cards from time to time. I had been getting the Mediterranean veggie sandwich – hold the feta. By all accounts, totally tasty and all vegan. The only problem is a veggie sandwich is not very manly, and thus not very filling. The free pickle (I hope that’s vegan) is a nice added bonus!

I had taken to ordering an extra plain bagel “to go” in order to top off my appetite later if the veggie sandwich did not completely do the job.

Panera does a good job of listing all of their ingredients on their website, so we knew for instance that the “French Toast” bagel was not suitable for vegans. No biggie, I can deal with a good old plain bagel.

I wrote to Panera a few days ago to ask about more clearly labeling the bagels so people would know that some were NOT vegan. I also wished for some sort of bakery item, as none of the baked goods at Panera are vegan. Sad, they look so good! Damn!

Here’s my e-mail to Panera:

Dear Panera,

You should more clearly label the items that are on your menu as vegan. Some of the bagels are and some are not. Also, it would be super cool if you offered just one vegan bakery item, a tart, a cookie, a brownie, or a cake. If you did, I would buy one every single time I stopped in for lunch or dinner. While I don’t care if it’s gluten free or not, it might be possible to have a gluten free, vegan treat and solve two problems at once.


Here’s the super friendly Panera response:

Dear Dana,

Thank you for contacting Panera Bread. The mono & diglycerides in our breads and bagels are all vegetable-sourced. Our cheeses, except for Asiago, Feta and Gorgonzola, are processed with non-animal enzymes (Dana says: I assume this is in reference to Casein a protein that is found in milk. It is often found in cheese, and it’s almost always in cheese alternatives).  Please note, that our current ingredients’ vendor has informed us that the amino acid l-cysteine used in our bagels is derived from an animal source.

L-Cysteine is a minor constituent of the bagel base commonly and widely used in the baking industry as a dough conditioner.  It is an amino acid obtained from a number of sources by means of hydrolysis (a lengthy refining process).  The end product is extremely remote from its natural or synthetic origin.

There are many choices on our menu for vegetarians or for those who watch their diet for religious reasons. However, if it is a serious concern for you, or you are a vegan, rather than a vegetarian, you will always want to check ingredients before you order. I have also noted your request to our product development team for future consideration.

By definition, “Vegan” means foods with NO animal products: NO meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy (including whey and casein) nor their by-products. Some strict “Vegans” may even avoid honey, white sugar, beer, vinegar and yeast.  So we do not label any of our products as specifically Vegan because of these various differences of opinion.  We do list all the ingredients of all our menu items on our website (and in notebooks in our bakery-cafés, which are available for viewing on request), so we leave it up to you to check on specific items to see if they fit your own definition of “Vegan.”

Thank you again for contacting us. We appreciate your business and value your thoughts on our menu.

Customer Comment Coordinator

Sadly, NONE of the bagels at Panera, are vegan. What? That’s crazy. What’s in a bagel that’s not egg and that’s NOT vegan. The answer is L-Cysteine. It’s a tiny part, but it’s used as a dough conditioner, and apparently it’s pretty widely used. You can read the sicking details on it here:

The non vegan and also the non vegetarian forms are most commonly made from duck feathers. Yeah, you heard me, duck feathers. I suppose that’s better then the other non-delightful version that’s made from human hair (there’s some question if this qualifies a cannibalism. Wow!). Now they do process this stuff to extremes, so as Panera mentions in their e-mail to me, the source is far, far removed from the end product, but it’s still not vegan.

Update 11/10/09: Dunkin’ Donuts’ bagels are not vegan either. See this link for a letter that reads like the the one above from Panera. Sad.

This post gets quite a bit of attention from folks searching for info on bagels being vegan or not (BTW some bagels ARE vegan).

Written by Dana Stibolt

March 16th, 2009 at 10:49 pm

14 Responses to 'Panera bagels are NOT vegan!'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'Panera bagels are NOT vegan!'.

  1. But in the Wiki article, it says:
    “Industrial sources –
    L-Cysteine was once obtained industrially by hydrolysis of hair and keratin. The main contemporary route involves fermentation utilizing a mutant of E. coli. Wacker Chemie introduced a route from substituted thiazolines.[3] Following this technology, L-cysteine is produced by the hydrolysis of racemic 2-amino-Δ2-thiazoline-4-carboxylic acid using Pseudomonas thiazolinophilum.[4]”

    While a little gross, if it is made from fermented mutant E. coli, I believe it would still qualify as vegan. Fingers crossed; I eat a lot of Panera bagels.


    12 Dec 09 at 11:04 am

  2. never mind….just re-read where the Panera lady said it was animal-derived. Bummer. Just checked the ingredients on the Panera site, and some of the breads are okay, though. It’s hard out here for a vegan pimp.


    12 Dec 09 at 11:24 am

  3. Just FYI, you mention in your blog post that casein comes from a calf’s stomach. That’s actually not true. It comes directly from milk, which definitely still makes it a non-vegan ingredient, but what you’re thinking of is rennet.

    Christina Maki

    4 Feb 10 at 4:40 pm

  4. You are correct. I will fix this on my post. Thank you pointing that out!

    Dana Stibolt

    11 Feb 10 at 5:10 pm

  5. […] and feed them to people.  no thank you.  i am really sad about this. i love bagels, especially panera bagels  :( i will be on the hunt this week for vegan bagels, which i’m sure i can find at Down To […]

  6. Everybody needs to email Panera about this mess!! I know for a FACT that bread enzymes can and often are made from vegetable sources. Panera is losing out; I hope they rethink their ingredient sources ASAP, but that will only happen if there is huge demand.


    25 Jan 11 at 9:03 am

  7. Bagels, regardless of the brand, are rarely vegan. Most of them also have an egg wash.


    6 May 11 at 8:53 am

  8. Just came across your post and am very glad that I did! Luckily we don’t eat at Panera often. It amazes me all the ways that animal products are slipped into our foods. I will check the Panera website and if this ingredient is still used, I will be sure to pass the info. on. Thanks!


    13 Oct 11 at 8:28 am

  9. Do they use it as a conditioner in all their dough (sandwiches, bagettes, etc.)?


    12 Jan 12 at 5:53 pm

  10. I have been told that all bread there is vegan, but the bagels are NOT.

    Dana Stibolt

    12 Jan 12 at 6:01 pm

  11. They don’t use l-cysteine anymore!!
    I e-mailed Panera to find out for sure if their other breads used the same dough conditioner. Below is the response I received from them. I followed it up to clarify if that means the bagels are now vegan. I will post the with their response when I get it. But for now, there is hope!

    Thank you for contacting Panera Bread. With the exception of our Jalapeño Cheddar Bagel, we have recently introduced a new natural bagel base in our bagels that does not use l-cysteine or cysteine. Please note that neither was ever an ingredient in our Artisan breads.

    Thank you again for contacting us. We appreciate your interest in our menu items.

    Customer Comments Coordinator


    17 Jan 12 at 9:29 pm

  12. Well, their response this time wasn’t so helpful.

    “Although vegetarian soups and sandwiches are noted on our menu, we do not keep a separate list of vegan products. However, you can find nutritional profiles and complete ingredients for our current menu items on our website.”

    So that leaves me to wonder what the new natural bagel base is. I suppose it’s eat at your own risk.


    18 Jan 12 at 11:42 am

  13. This is a bummer. I’ve been starving all day because I’m pretty much broke and brought a very small lunch. A basket of Panera bagels sits in the server room across the hall. Sadly, I won’t be making a visit.

    Clumsy Vegan

    26 Jan 12 at 2:17 pm

  14. Check the update at the top of the post. Info was passed along to say all Panera bagels are now Vegan except one.

    Dana Stibolt

    26 Jan 12 at 4:35 pm

Leave a Reply